Home Forums General Game Design Changing situations make games more interesting

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    Chris Pringle

    I’ve done a blog post musing on how scenarios that include significant changes mid-game generate new situations and new decisions, make for more ebb and flow, and generally make games more interesting:


    The blog post focuses on reinforcements and redeployments, but there are other possibilities too: changes in weather or visibility; changes in terrain (bridges being washed away, villages or forests catching fire, third-party arrivals such as civilians/refugees or herds of wildebeest); changes in orders from on high.

    I’d be interested in others’ comments on the importance of such things to making games entertaining, and on other possible factors that can change the tabletop situation.


    Bloody Big BATTLES!




    For our colonial Sudan gaming, we use a modified version of ‘The Men who would be Kings”.Some of the mods are from ‘The Sword and the Flame’ including the event cards.

    I think it fair to call our games “bloody big battles” too (see photos on this site) and our recent Show game extensively featured the cards.

    They provided great entertainment. Who wouldn’t see the fun of having your C-i-C shot dead by a sniper, causing instant defeat,  a unit suddenly without ammunition as the Dervish moved in, or several units, weakened by food poisoning unable to charge for the entire game?  Not to mention the scrub fire that destroyed the only Dervish units close enough to attack before time ran out? There were loud exclamations of dismay & peals of victorious chuckles as cards were exposed. But I think these interventions can get out of hand. If the game is a tactical exercise in some part, random disruptions can surely mar that. To be honest, the event cards are a major reason we lost the Saturday game & won the Sunday one.

    It was fun but was it war? (I’d do that line in French if I could speak it).

    It is for this reason I don’t use the “Command Blunders” of Blitz Krieg Commander. To outwit & outfight your opponent comprehensively & suddenly have the situation reversed may not provide a satisfying outcome for either side.

    So, in answer to the OP, I think disruptions should be handled very cautiously.



    Darkest Star Games

    I think that they can add excellent flavor as well and adversities that can be something like enjoyable and do happen in real life.  However, as above, I think they need to be handled cautiously and shouldn’t be something that happen too often.

    For instance, in one game I played I had a troop attacked and drug off by a tiger, a couple more jump up from prone to brush off ants attacking (which got several of them shot dead), the weather changed from clear to rain 4 different times, 3 grass fires started by smoke grenades and MG tracer rounds and both sides had troops pulled off the field and then reinforcements sent.  It was a bit much, and seriously suspended belief.  1 or 2 per game, cool, especially in a campaign.  But in a 1 off game, I’d probably not use them.

    "I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."


    In our ESR Campaign Guides, sometimes victory conditions change midway through a battle – or players have an opportunity to change them. For instance, at 1st Kulm in 1813, on the first day the French goal is to breakthrough the Russian rearguard to continue pursuit of the Allied army. On the second day their goal was to escape alive. Similarly, in 1814 there are several battles where the information the commander received during the battle changed their goal, and so we provide for those.


    Some players love it because it puts them in the moment. Others hate it because they want to know what is going on from the start.



    The Bandit


    I just remembered that I did quite recently make & use some Event Cards for my Bronze Age games.

    This was a success not only because they were rationed but largely because we use the somewhat “dusty” Field of Glory rules which probably benefit from the “human element”.



    Chris Pringle

    I think these interventions can get out of hand. If the game is a tactical exercise in some part, random disruptions can surely mar that.

    Absolutely agree. Too much randomness and instead of ebb and flow you are drinking from the firehose.

    If you look at the blog post I referred to, you’ll see the situations I talked about were far from random. The possibility of them happening was known, and the players also had some influence over which might happen and when. We like to make decisions, but we like to have some knowledge of the factors affecting them, and we like our decisions to have consequences and not be rendered irrelevant by a new random event every other turn. Random forest fires, maybe not so much fun; option to use incendiary ammo with a chance of causing such fires, more interesting. Random herd of wildebeest, maybe too bizarre; option to open a gate that might let cattle stampede across the table, more fun.

    Thanks for the good non-random comments. 



    In addition to the above I think “random” events should be developments of existing events or possible outcomes of recent events.

    For example letting the players know there has been three weeks of rain would give them an idea that fields could be muddy, rivers might be swollen and fords impassable (despite the maps) and bridges should be checked out before running heavy loads over them. Maybe that well hidden minefield you laid out last month is now all waterlogged meaning the mines have risen to the surface making them obvious or maybe they are so sodden as to be useless.

    The forces on your flanks are seeing action so reinforcements could be diverted.

    A good commander should be aware of his environment and be advised of this, not just sprung on them blindly. Noted some events can’t and shouldn’t be broadcast before the game but no more than one and highly unlikely except as part of an ongoing campaign. Then the effect and especially knowledge of the event can then be used by the affected player in possible future scenarios. For example that field of standing crops which burnt with a squad in it last week will not have grown back up in time to provide concealment for the opposing units during the next battle. But the last time THEY saw it is was a head high corn field and still a month from being harvested.

    Chris Pringle

    In addition to the above I think “random” events should be developments of existing events or possible outcomes of recent events.

    Hi Stephen,

    Yes, well put, and good examples. I agree that foreshadowing possible events with suitable clues is a fairer and more interesting challenge for players who can then try to anticipate and provide for/insure against whatever threats/opportunities might present themselves.


    Phil Dutré

    In the classic wargaming literature Featherstone made a distinction between “chance cards” (i.e. tactical factors that can be played during a game, e.g. effictive volley fire, or a boosted morale, etc.), and “military possibilities” (e.g. variations in deployment, reserves showing up, etc).

    I always thought that was a good framework to think about “random events” on the gaming table.

    In any case, such unexpected or random factors should never overwhelm the game. The wargamer should still feel in control of more than 50% of the game 😉

    Tiny Tin Men Blog: http://snv-ttm.blogspot.com/
    Wargaming Mechanics Blog: http://wargaming-mechanics.blogspot.com/

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